My own crop of lemon grass, with flowers of Aloe vera, poinsettias, and yellowed flowered lantana in the background

To continue my series of herbs that you can grow your own, namely culinary herbs the next one I would like to add is Lemon grass. This tough and hardy herb, is also an easy one to start with. Lemon grass or East Indian variety (Cymbopogon flexuosus) and the West Indian version (Cymbopogon citratus) is well known in Asian cooking can add a wonderful zesty citrus/lemon flavour to your stir fry or Asian soup. It is not one of those one-off crops where you’ll need to constantly replant, but something you can harvest over the years and at your own rate. In other words, “oh I really feel like some Chinese tonight, hey honey, do we have some lemon grass?”

Which is which?

To be specific, there are actually dozens and dozens of varieties of lemon grass found in many countries, and most would be fine, but here are two of the most common. To identify the East Indian lemon grass, used in both cooking and teas, look for the purple tinged one at the edge of the leaf or stalk etc., and it can also grow to 1.5 metres or 5′, and West Indian version, which can be used in cooking, teas and perfumes, only grows to about 90cm or 3′. I would personally just use whatever is easiest to get ahold of and go for it.

Which part do I use?

If you are making a tea/infusion or a decoction, cut off a leaf or two, finely chop them so that you have around about a tablespoon, place it in boiling hot water and allow to steep covered for about 10 minutes, and drink. For a stronger flavour, place the chopped lemon grass into room temperature water, and bring it to boil, then allow it to simmer for 10 to maybe 20 minutes, add a sweetener and enjoy. It can go well with lots of other herbs such as, chamomile, lemon balm and lavender. Why don’t you try a combination of your own and let me know. I often use it in a herbal tea with Lemon balm, Ribwort and a small squeeze of lemon juice.

To use it in cooking, dig down into the base of the clump, and pull out a few stems right from the base. Chop of any roots and leaves, peel off a few layers and your ready to chop. Don’t use the leaves in the cooking as they are quite tough, even a bit spikey and way too chewy when trying to eat your meal, and yep I’ve tried it, spent most of the time picking every little bit out.

Lemon grass seed head with tree and power lines in the background.

How to grow it.

Lemon grass is reasonably tough and hard to kill, no not impossible, but hard. It loves summers that are wet, and cool drier winters, with good drainage as it doesn’t really like it’s roots sitting in water. It’ll grow in just about any soil, but it does prefer rich soil with a little compost or manure, as it is a ‘grass’ meaning it likes nitrogen. Probably the only real concern is frost, so don’t put it in hollows that collect cold air, or areas of still air.

Although just fine in the ground and lemon grass can add interest to any garden honestly, so you could place it in hard to maintain sections, but my preferred choice is to use a large pot, near or conveniently close to the kitchen. Choose a pot or container approximately 30cm or 12″ in diameter, or bigger if you want a bigger clump. Mine was just chucked into an old rectangular black storage tub, I added a little potting mix and I occasionally throw in some fertiliser, and water it from time to time, and there you are, free lemon grass year after year.

From division

The easiest and quickest way to get your lemon grass going is from division. Depending how rough you are, break off a chunk of the clump, this can be one small individual piece or even one large group of stems, and so long as you have sufficient roots in good condition. Simply place the base of the stork of lemon grass with its roots into the mix and water it in well. Give it reasonable care for the next few weeks until it is settled and beware of winds and other weather conditions, which may knock it over for example. This can be remedied by simply putting in a stake and tying a little bit of cloth around them both.

From seed

Unless your region is very cold, you can plant seeds from spring to autumn, if you are very cold, plant either spring or summer, either way, don’t plant during winter as it really doesn’t like it, and it won’t germinate.

To get going fill almost to the top of a 100mm or 4″pot with vegetable potting mix and gently press down the mix, with your hands, then make four small holes about 75mm or 3″ apart at 6mm or 1/4″ deep with your finger and drop in 3 – 4 seeds per hole, cover over and water in.

Always price around for your seed, some are cheap and some are expensive.

Your cute little seedlings should pop out in about 14 – 21 days, if the temperature is above 20 C. If you have too many, just thin out the weaker looking ones without damaging the good strong ones. Place the container into full sun to part shade, water regularly and give it a little fertiliser every now and again.

As your lemon grass gets bigger all you need to do is transfer it into a larger container, add some fresh potting mix with some compost or manure, water it in and away you go, even more lemon grass to enjoy or share swap or trade with your neighbours.



Please remember, this blog cannot replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a The Herbarius

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

A mini forest of Parsley

Honestly, there are herbs everywhere, and why can I say this with such confidence, and unless you live where there are no plants, you will have a herb somewhere, because all plants are herbs.

So let’s get back to the point, if you have a store nearby that sells gardening supplies and/or you have access to a computer that has internet access, well, you should have no excuse not to order some herb seeds and anything else you need, unless you have no money. At first, I would suggest herbs that you can use in cooking or at least some form of food preparation, and this will depend entirely on you and your families likes and dislikes. Culinary herbs are not just good for cooking and flavour, but, they are actually very nutritious, high in vitamins and minerals and other wonderful constituents beneficial for your health.

A common herb that is used in cooking is parsley (Petroselinum spp.), and there are at least three main varieties, the common or curled leaf parsley (Petroselinum crispum), the Italian or flat parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. neapolitanum), and the German parsley or Hamburg variety (Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum). So you can buy the variety you prefer or be adventurous and buy all three. Either way, just hurry up and buy something. Times-a-wasting.

Preparation

The soil has to be rich, as in rich in humus, such as well composted vegetable matter and animal manure, and suitable natural fertiliser, which is optional, but you may need some later on. Also, it needs to be moist, not soaking just moist to touch and doesn’t become water logged. Most vegetable potting mixes are generally fine, just buy a quantity version, because if you skimp now, it will come back somewhere else. After a year you will need to repot the parsley with fresh potting mix, as the mix will become exhausted, especially if you want it to be highly beneficial.

My own happy little bunch of Parsley

How to grow your Parsley?

In hotter climates, you can plant all year round, unless very dry or hot, then don’t plant during summer. In temperate climates you can plant from spring to autumn, and in cool to cold climates only plant during spring and summer.

Method 1. Go and buy some seedlings, this is the quickest and easiest method, but the more expensive. So, if your local store has vegetable and herb seedlings, you could go down and buy a punnet or container of seedlings and plant them into a container with the potting/soil mentioned above. You won’t need too many as one decent parsley plant will you give lots of product and four to six plants will give you more than you’ll ever need. But hey, why don’t you trade the excess with a neighbour, and butchers use lots of parsley.

Dig a slightly wider hole than the size of the seedling, gently remove the seedling by turning upside down the punnet, gently hold the stem at the base of the plant and lightly squeeze the underneath plastic from different directions, and then push on the very bottom and then carefully pull it out, tickle the roots and make sure that they are not in a clump at the bottom, slightly spreading the roots and place this new baby into his spot, push in and firm up the potting mix around the plant and then do the next one the same and once you have them all in, give them a good but gentle watering. Here is a tip, do not allow the potting mix to build up around the base or what they call the crown of the plant, it must sit just above the mix. Make sure you place the container in a sunny position, and then give it a good watering once a week. If you have a hot dry region you may need to give them a little watering every couple of days for the first week, just to get them established. Either way, keep the soil slightly moist.

Some cheap parsley seeds from the local discount store

Method 2. Grow the seeds in a container indoors or at least in a protected area out of the sun. Seeds don’t need sunlight to germinate, just the right temperature, and moisture etc. Fill the container almost to the top with potting mix, simply sprinkle a few seeds on top and rake them just into the mix about 5mm or 1/4″ gently water and cover with a clean rag or hessian bag or similar, even plastic works, and if all is well, they should start emerging in about 3-4 weeks, just keep the mix and cloth slightly moist. Once they start coming up, remove the cloth and keep out of direct sunlight until they strengthen. Any sickly or excess ones thin out. Remember you only need a few plants and you need space between them, say 15cm to 30cm. Once they are healthy and growing well move them out into the sunshine.

Method 3. Plant them directly into the ground. But make sure that there are no more frosts around. Make sure the soil is rich and well tilled and soft for at least 10cm or 3″ deep and slightly moist. Make rows or holes about 5mm and sow into these and lightly cover with the soil and gently add water. You could even place a hessian bag or cloth over them to keep the soil moist and prevent it from drying out. Once they start emerging, remove the cloth, and continue care with watering and weeding etc., until established, then once growing well start harvesting your wonderful parsley.

Benefits of Parsley

It is a low calorie food yet is extremely nutrient dense, being high in vitamin A, which is great for eye health, vitamin C and very high in vitamin K, which helps with bone health. It’s great for iron, plus calcium, folate and potassium, and lesser amounts of magnesium and manganese, along with some fibre. It also is very high in powerful antioxidants, such as the flavonoids – myricetin and apigenin and others. Also carotenoids, such as beta carotene, zeaxanthin and lutein, which help to reduce risk of some diseases, and the vitamin C is also an antioxidant.

Please remember, this blog cannot replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a The Herbarius

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

Ribwort

Now where to start?

In my last blog, I mentioned that you may have herbs basically at your own back door and not know it. For many people this is true, no matter where you are in the world, but for some this isn’t true. So what is at least one answer to deal with a lack of useful herbs, that’s easy, you import your herbs, no I don’t mean ordering a plant or cuttings or seeds online, although this is okay, and you may have to do this, but what I am suggesting first is to literally go and find a herb in your area, that’s not illegal to take of course, or at least you should ask, and then shove it in a pot a grow it yourself.

A simple place to start

A common herb, which is found in many countries and found close to or reasonably near to civilisation and most would declare a weed is “Ribwort” or it’s botanical name is Plantago lanceolata. Yes I know, it is not a very flattering name is it? But, it is simply excellent for upper respiratory issues as it’s actions are expectorant, demulcent, astringent, anti-inflammatory, anticatarral, antiseptic, mucus membrane tonic, and wound healing. And this being a list of so many human aliments, why wouldn’t you want such a useful herb right there. Which can be used for common conditions such as coughs, rhinitis, sinusitis, nasal catarrh, laryngitis, plus topically for wounds from cuts and abrasions, boths fresh or slow healing, haemorrhoids and mouth ulcers, and that is just for starters.

The Weed File

Plantago Lanceolata does have a few look-a-likes or close brothers if you will, the common one it is confused with is typically called Plantain, which has nothing to do with the thing that looks like a banana. The easiest way to recognise ribwort from plantain is th esize of the leaf, ribwort is long and skinny, and Plantain is broad and wide. Thankfully, they both function the same and mixing them up poses no safety issues.

Some other similar species with possible mix ups are Buck’s-Horn plantain (Plantago coronopus), Sago weed (Plantago cunninghammii, P. drummondi)

Some different species that can be mixed up especially as young plants are: Wireweed (Polygonum aviculare), Corn Spurry (Spergula arvensis), Purple Calandrinia (Calandrinia menziesii)

So how do I do this?

First you need to go and get it, typically it is found where man has interfered with the environment and people traffic through such as foot paths, road sides, fields and vacant lots. Plus it is found more often in areas or groun that tends to more moisture, meaning, if water was moving on top of the ground or just underneath, that little spot tends to stay damper for longer, it is near low lying areas or creeks or slightly more shaded areas, then that is where it is likely to be.

Take with you either damp paper or clean damp cloth and a long philps screwdriver or some other pointy object, locate the plant and use that pointy object to loosen around the roots and lift it out. Roll the damp paper or cloth around the plant and take it back home.

Planting Ribwort

Ribwort is just so simple to plant and care for, Prepare container that’s about 150mm or 6″ in diameter, with some good potting mix, or good soil with compost, and slightly moisten the mix. Then poke a hole about as deep as the root system and just put it in the hole and with your fingers, press around it to stand it up, water inand keep the soil moist from then on, and there you are, it’ll just keep going and going. Always just sitting there, fresh and ready to be used. Personally, I would suggest always keeping it in pots, so as not to spread it all over the country side as this will encourage others to use herbicides, and we frankly just don’t need more poisons.

From seed

Ribwort is quite easy to grow from seed, and you can obtain this seed from the plant itself or buy then online. With any plant which some will call weeds, you may not be able to buy into your state or region.

  • Simply prepare a container with potting mix
  • Make a few holes in it
  • Drop a few seeds into the holes
  • Cover over
  • And well water in
  • In a short while up they come and your away

Maintenance

Ribwort does get pests such as aphids and some moths and other diseases, generally these are not so serious and so long as it is given basic care, that is, some water every now and again, and a spot of fertiliser, it will be fine. Of course it won’t survive snow and ice, but some seed can survive at times until spring.

Due to having a ‘tap root’ it tends to indicate, that the soil in that area has or is becoming compacted, therefore a simple help to remove it out of your lawns and fields is to open up and loosen the soil. This is why regular cultivation, that is, loosening it up reduces it population.

Here’s my very own Ribwort that I have had for several years
A closeup of the leaf for further pictures see the gallery

How do you use it?

So how would you use it for coughs or a sore throat, for example; simply cut off two of the fresh leaves about the same size as the photos above, chop them up a bit with a knife, chuck them into a cup or mug, pour in some freshly boiled water and cover, and wait a 10 minutes. You don’t have to, but you can then strain out the leaves add a suitable sweetener if required such as stevia, raw honey, monk fruit or erythritol, and drink. To help, and not too hot, you can gargle it as well.

You can make a similar tea as above out of the seeds, just use one teaspoon instead of the leaves, or use one tablespoon of dried leaves.

It can add many additional herbs to this simple recipe above if you wish, such as lemon balm or lemon grass, parsley or oregano, even sage, who knows really? An excellent herb to add is echinacea root, which is stronger than the echinacea leaf. In this case, I would make a decoction of the root by boiling it for 30-40 minutes, then add the Ribwort (or any other herbs) once you have turned off the heat, and leave it covered for about 10 minutes. Then drink slowly, but try to finish the drink before it gets cold, as hot teas seem to soothe sore throats and softens mucus.

Culinary Uses

The young leaves can be used in salads, with a slightly bitter taste, older leaves are not very good for salads, butu are fine for teas and decoctions.

The seeds, husks and flower heads are edible and are an excellent source of fibre for your diet. The famous ‘psyllium husks’ sometimes called Fleaseed, Plantago psyllium, is in the very same family as ribwort. The seeds due to their mucilage content can be placed into hot boiling water, which then turn into a jelly-like consistency, these can be added to fruit drinks and smoothies to add a thickener.

If your a rabbit or similar such as a guinea pig you also can eat ribwort.


Collection

The leaves can technically be harvested at any time, but for used in fresh salads only choose young ones, but for herbalism, teas and decoctions it is better to be collected just before or during blossoming time. Don’t remove all the leaves as you don’t want the plant to die off, and you may need some later, only harvest no more than 1/2 to 2/3rds of the plant maximum. Always make sure that the leaves are free from defects, such as insect bites, discolouration and any fungi, plus any chemicals, sprays and other poisons.

Drying

Simply place the leaves on a dry, clean kitchen towel, or paper towel in a well ventilated room, once the leaves are completely dry, place them into a sealed glass container and label. If kept dry, clean and cool and in a dark place, it should keep for up to two years. If you see or smell mouldiness then throw it out.

Herbalism

The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.

Parts used:

Leaf and flower and seed head

Dosage:

6.0 – 12.0 grams

Main actions:

Expectorant – global, demulcent, astringent, anti-inflammatory, anti-catarrhal, antiseptic, mucus membrane tonic, and wound healing

Indications:

All types of coughs, nasal catarrh – rhinitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, slow healing wounds – topically, haemorrhoids, and mouth ulcers

Constituents:

Anthraquinone glycosides, phenolics, and tannins

Safety concerns:

Pregnancy and lactation, in high doses, otherwise none known

Adulterants:

Adulterated with similar species of Rheum



As I continue this blog I intend to add more useful, yet easy to grow herbs, which you can keep at your back door, veranda, patio, carport or even on the landing of your apartment. So follow along as there’s so much more to discover.


Please remember, this blog cannot replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a. The Herbarius

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au